MAC Championship Preview: NIU vs. Miami

GAINESVILLE FL - SEPTEMBER 04: Armand Robinson #11 of Miami University RedHawks catches a pass against Jonathan Bostic #52 of the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 4 2010 in Gainesville Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Huskies vs RedHawks coverage

Less than a day away... I CAN'T WAIT

Offense

Miami has the 114th ranked rushing offense and 40th ranked passing offense in the country.

QB Zac Dysert claimed 2nd Team All-MAC yesterday after throwing for 2,406 yds as part of the 3rd best passing offense in the MAC.  He will not be starting on Friday.  As we already talked a little about, rFR Austin Boucher will be making just his 3rd start against the Huskies.  In the last two games against Akron and Temple, he's 37 of 60 (62%) for 368 yds, 2 TDs and an INT.  He also tossed a TD earlier in the season in garbage time against Mizzou.

Boucher will be throwing to an excellent pair of receivers in senor Armand Robinson (6'1" 199) and fellow freshman Nick Harwell (6'1" 183), both of which who garnered 2nd Team All-MAC honors as well.  Robinson has 76 catches for 805 yds and 5 TDs, while Harwell has 52 catches for 719 and 5 TDs as well.  Both top-10 in the MAC.  This receiving duo is only second to WMU in terms of prowess.

With a freshman in the pocket, Miami has been giving a lot more carries to senior RB Thomas Merriweather (5'10" 213) the past two games.  He rushed for 141 vs. Akron and 182 against Temple, which included a 96 yard scamper.  He's essentially a poor man's Chad Spann.  He doesn't do one thing spectacular but is pretty decent all-around.

I'm really confused by the All-MAC team selections for the Redhawks offensive line.  All-MAC 2nd Team LG Brandon Brooks missed the first seven games of the season with an injury, but has started the last three.  He was projected to start at LT before the season.  Also, 3rd Team selection at guard Bob Gulley didn't even start against Temple last week.  If anybody has an answer to this quandary, please leave a comment.

In terms of pass protection, Miami is 89th in the country in giving up sacks.  That isn't good, this is a vast improvement from last year when they were 120th.

Gameplan

Confuse the heck out of Boucher.  His lack of playing time should be exposed in this game.  It shouldn't be hard to bottle up Miami's running game, but that will be essential as the Redhawks will try and establish it early on.

Defense

Miami's defense is ranked 27th in the nation and 4th in the MAC.  This is extremely deceptive when your schedule has included teams like Buffalo and Akron.  In fact the only teams on their schedule who has come even close to meeting NIU's success on the offensive side of the ball was Cincinnati and they blew the Redhawks off the field 45-3.

Miami's game is putting constant pressure into the backfield and hoping to force turnovers.  So far on the season they are 8th in the country in Tackles For Loss and 31st in sacks.  Both of those are 2nd in the conference.  We've already talked about how Miami's main focus and point of success this season has been forcing the turnover.

Sophomore DT Austin Brown (6'2" 285) is the lone All-MAC selection on this side of the ball.  He is the 4th leading tackler with 48 tackles, which is insane for his position.  He is also 2nd on the team with 10 TFL on the season.  DE Jason Semmes (6'3" 254) leads the team with 4.5 sacks on the season.

Their biggest playmaker is MLB Jerrell Wedge (5'9" 223), who leads the team with 14 TFL and also is 2nd on the team with 79 tackles.  Their leading tackler, Evan Harris also has 5 interceptions on the year.  CB Dayonne Nunley has 5 interceptions to his credit as well, but doesn't seem to be a starter.

Gameplan

Do what we've been all season long: Run the ball until the cows come home.  Run it some more.  I am not afraid of this scarecrow defense at all.  Miami obviously might be expecting this right away, so a trick in the bag would be to throw it all over the field until they adjust.

Special Teams

1st Team All-MAC K Trevor Cook runs circles around Cklamovski, as he is 16 for 21 on the season.  That makes him 10th in the nation in field goal scoring, being the key cog in the close games that Miami has won.  The rest of their special teams is not special at all, except for their 38th ranked kickoff return coverage.

Huskie Fans!  What are your predictions?

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